Title: Thranduil's Secret Garden

Author: Sivan Shemesh

Beta: Aranel

Rate: K+

Theme: Summertime

Question: "And when had you planned to tell me?"

Sentence: The garden was looking splendid; the roses ran riot over the fence, and the flowers along the path were in full bloom

Disclaimer: Not mine. Based on "Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Warning: AU. OOC.

Summary: Being sent by Lord Elrond to Mirkwood, the boy finds not only a new friend, but some other dormant thing…

Special Author Note:In this AU, let's just say that Estel is an orphan – just for this story – and poor Legolas; the elfling has another story as well.

Word count (Part 1): 2068 without the heading.

A boy named Estel came to Mirkwood with two elves, who guarded him as they waited outside the main caves to present a message to King Thranduil with regards to the boy.

Thranduil soon arrived and stared at the child, even as the guards – most likely Elrond's twin sons – were about to read to him from the parchment.

But before either could start, Thranduil raised his hand to halt them.

"Give me that; I would rather read it on my own than hear both of you sing it," Thranduil requested with a grin on his face.

"King Thranduil,

The boy before you, who is probably upside down, is an orphan, and has been placed under my care.

His name is Estel and he loves to care for flowers, as I have found out. He has the touch of an elf, and yet he has a stronger spirit within him that should be set free. I hope you can help him with this.

I sent him also in the hope that he could be of help to your elfling in these dark days. I have also charged the twins to watch over him when you are otherwise occupied.

Best regards, and may the Valar be with you,

Lord Elrond."

Thranduil folded the parchment and then he stared at the boy, smiling at him before saying anything. "Let me show you your new room," he motioned to the boy and then turned toward the twins. "Come," he added, "you too will need a room as you will be watching over the boy."

Elladan and Elrohir stared at each other, knowing that their hands would be full in the next few days.

Once they were settled in their rooms, Thranduil turned toward the boy and said, "My son in his room. I want you to know the way so you can meet each other when I am busy."

Estel and the twins followed the king through the dimly-lit corridor and stopped when the king paused at a dark room and stepped into it.

"Greenleaf, I have someone I wish you to meet. They, or rather he, will accompany you if I am needed elsewhere," Thranduil announced.

He saw his son's head appear from behind the blankets and he could not hide the smile that soon showed in his face.

Thranduil nodded at the boy, who turned to the bed where the prince lay and bowed gracefully.

To the king's surprise, Legolas left the bed and walked toward the boy.

"But Ada, he is a boy – and a human one," Legolas mumbled, and then, turning to the boy, he added, "Can he make faces?"

Estel glanced at the prince, noticing the dark rings beneath his eyes and his pale, dull face. He wondered what could have happened to him to bring so much pain and sadness to the elf's blue eyes.

Estel soon realized that he was staring, and those blue eyes were watching his every move. Then, tentatively, he made a face at the prince. Legolas stared, his eyes softening somewhat in mirth. Encouraged, Estel started to relax, he made more faces and told his favorite joke.

Legolas bit his lip to refrain from laughter; Estel's face immediately crumbled into a frown of incomprehension at this restrain – which only caused Legolas to burst out into laughter.

Thranduil stared at them in astonishment. He was indeed surprised to see his son laughing out loud. He had thought that he would never see this day, he would never see his dear son so happy and smiling with the spirit of life glowing from within.

With a smile now clearly marked on his face, the king made to leave. "I will leave you to get to know each other better," he said.

"Hannon-le, Ada." Legolas thanked his father, moved over close beside him and hugged him.

"Take care you two."

The king seemed to have forgotten the presence of Elrond's sons, but Estel surely could not ignore them, as he noticed their eyes always watching him and the prince, and that somehow disturbed him.

Right before King Thranduil left the room, the boy quickly asked, "Could you keep the twins occupied too?"

The king stared at the twins, who already seemed to know that they were not needed there. He grinned. "Certainly," he said, "I have some chores that they could do…"

Elladan turned to stare at his twin, noticing how his brother was inching backward, and said accusingly, "You told me that it would be easy, as – and I quote you – 'We will not do a thing, just drop Estel off at Mirkwood, and then we'll rest and enjoy the scenery'. Is this your idea of rest? We barely arrived and we're supposed to start doing the chores…"

"How should I know that the king will actually give us anything to do?" Elrohir tried to excuse himself, noticing how Elladan clearly was not willing to accept this for an answer.

Thranduil glanced toward his son and the giggling boy and quickly interfered, "You will merely assist me in a very easy way. Come, follow me…"

With that, Thranduil left the room and, sensing that the twins were not following, he stopped in the hallway, turned and glared at them.

Legolas, seeing the situation, suggested, "I think you should follow ada before he starts fuming. I do not think that you wish to see ada mad at anyone…"

"This is just what we need right now," Elladan cynically remarked to his shrugging twin, "You just wait, little brother."

"But how should I know that?" Elrohir showed him his innocent face, hoping to placate his twin.

"That is enough!" Thranduil raised his voice and added, hiding his grin, "Come along, I do not have the whole day."

As they left, Estel and Legolas could not stop themselves from laughing out loudly once again.

Estel looked at the princeling with watchful eyes, and it seemed that for the first time, he noticed the closed curtain; the dim light barely brightened the room. He also noticed the white bandages that covered Legolas' side.

"What happened to you?" Estel asked in curiosity.

"Bad encounter with ugly creatures." Legolas simply answered.

"What did they do to make you have to stay in this room?" Estel asked, convinced that there was more to it.

Legolas sighed heavily, still feeling the pain as he moved his hand subconsciously toward his wound. He never wished to recall his encounter with them; it was too horrible. But this child, Estel – he was different from everyone else. He was his friend and now this friend was curious.

Then, without warning, the recollection came, flashbacks of the horrible scene as he told Estel his story…

The princeling was walking through the garden with his ada, but suddenly, the cold wind sent a shiver down his spine. He jerked, surprised and let go of his ada's hand, and then he was engulfed and taken away by the shadow, away from his ada and from everything familiar.

He vaguely saw his ada trying to find him, knowing he was wondering how in the name of the Valar could Legolas have been so crudely taken away from him.

Legolas knew his ada would be ordering whatever guards were near and not caught by the shadows to regroup in preparation to reclaim his lost son. He would be the first to charge through the shadows with his sword in his hand and revenge burning in his eyes, as soon as the guards drew near. But it brought little comfort to Legolas.

Legolas could hear lots of growling voices that soon surrounded him in the black darkness. He only knew he could not see his father behind him anymore, and, whether he liked to admit it, he was afraid of what could happen to him. What was going on? He wanted to scream for his ada but he could not command his trembling lips when he saw those ugly creatures with pure hatred in their eyes as they glared at him.

One of the creatures came closer to the elfling, laughing aloud as the princeling shook visibly in fear.

The orc exulted in the princeling's fear and sneered at him, "My knife will taste your pure blood, and so will I…" the orc licked his lips before the elfling, and noticed with satisfaction how the princeling took a few steps backward away from him.

But the princeling could not go far; he stopped as soon as he felt the trunk of the tree behind him, he stopped as he did not know where he should go. He never had to walk alone – his ada forbade him to – for fear of what he now had to confront.

"You have nowhere to go, princeling… Come to me now, meet my knife, come close… You are mine now…" The orc teased him.

Legolas could hear the shuffling and echoing voices of the other orcs. They were pressing in on him, sneering, mocking, coming closer...

The next thing that he felt was the unbearable pain that multiplied through his body. He felt how his blood left his body, he wondered if he was going to die. And soon his view blurred and the pain was still growing and he just wanted to give up and he let himself fall onto the ground amidst the foreign coarse laughter.

"And then, when I awoke, I saw ada staring at me in concern," Legolas explained, but the boy was still satisfied.

"But why are you still in bed, and with no light in your room?" Estel asked, not understanding why Legolas had to be alone in this dark place.

Legolas walked back toward his bed, and curled up under the white blankets. He replied softly, "I suffered from an infection and I still do, and I am weak, and I am so tired and have these horrible nightmares that keep coming at me. I am so scared, Estel, I am so scared that they will come and take me away from ada and hurt me again."

Estel watched his friend, deeply concerned. He politely asked, "Is it alright if I sit beside the bed?"

"Do as you please, Estel." Legolas replied, trying to fight the pain that wrecked his body once again.

Estel sat beside the princeling's bed, his eyes never leaving his form as he watched worriedly on. He scratched his head, wondering why Legolas could not be outside, where he would feel every creation in nature around him, smiling, singing for him.


Meanwhile, in the palace…

Elladan and Elrohir stared in disbelief at the task the king gave them. The guards were watching them, waiting for them to polish their weapons to shine just like the sun.

"I am not going to do that!" Elladan complained.

Elrohir, though, started to work his way through the swords and arrowheads.

Elladan stopped him. "What do you think that you are doing?"

"Polish it, muindor. The sooner we finish, the more time we have to enjoy some fun…" Elrohir replied and continued to work at the chores.

"So you are telling me that we are bound to do anything that Thranduil asks of us, is that it?" Elladan asked, alert as the guards glared at him.

"Yes," Elrohir grinned without interrupting his work.

"Ada will be pleased to know that we're working harder here than at home, and we'll never hear the end of it." Elladan gave a deep sigh and finally started to polish the weapons.

Elrohir kept quiet, knowing that his brother was right; they both were now stuck in Mirkwood doing chores.


Later in Legolas' room

Estel stood from the chair to stretch his body, and moved toward the window, noticing how the night masked the tree with its black cover, and he wondered about the next day. He hoped to see nature smiling back at him. That was what he always loved and enjoyed most.

The boy did not notice as the king silently entered the room and watched him.

"There is something in the forest that I would like you to look at," Thranduil said softly, "from the way you seek nature and care for it, you will enjoy the beauty there. Two of my guards will follow you, just for your safety."

Estel beamed. "Could your son join us too?" he asked, not knowing what the king's answer might be.

TBC in part 2.